Sickle cell anemia is a type of anemia that is inherited. It is marked by the insufficiency of the healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. These healthy red blood cells are round and flexible, while in sickle cell anemia, the red blood cells look like sickles and are rigid and sticky. In small blood vessels, these cells can get stuck and thus impair the normal blood flow. Sickle cell anemia or sickle cell disease is not curable. However, it must be treated in order to relieve the pain and avoid certain complications that may arise from it.
Causes of sickle cell anemia
The main cause of this blood disorder is the mutation of the certain gene that is responsible for controlling of hemoglobin production. When one is healthy, hemoglobin A is produced, but in sickle cell anemia, the body produces hemoglobin S. The people with sickle cell anemia have two genes that regulate the production of hemoglobin. One gene is healthy, while the other is defective. Therefore, their body manufactures both, hemoglobin A and hemoglobin S.
Symptoms of sickle cell anemia
The first symptoms of this condition usually appear when the baby is 4 months old. One of the symptoms of sickle cell anemia is anemia. When one suffers from anemia, he/she has insufficient red blood cells. The healthy red blood cells usually live for 120 days and after that, they are replaced. On the other side, the sickle cells die after 10 or 20 days. Therefore, there are not enough red blood cells in the blood and anemia occurs. Fatigue typically accompanies anemia, since the body does not receive enough oxygen. Among major symptoms of sickle cell anemia are periodic episodes of pain. When the small blood vessels in the chest, abdomen and joints are blocked due to the sickle cells, the pain occurs. Hand-foot syndrome is also considered to be a warning sign of the sickle cell disease. When the baby has the swollen feet and hands, this occurs due to the blockage of the blood vessels in hands and feet.
The sickle cell anemia may cause jaundice or the yellowing of the skin, which results from the malfunctioning of the liver. Since the red blood cells tend to break down very fast in sickle cell anemia, the liver, which filters harmful substances from the blood, is overwhelmed. Frequent infections are also a symptom of this condition since the spleen, which fights the infections, is damaged. Other warning signs of the sickle cell anemia are delayed growth and problems with vision.